The pundits and late-night preachers laughed at President Donald Trump when he predicted early in the pandemic that Big Pharma would have a vaccine within a year.
Who’s laughing now?
American drug-makers proved Trump right.
They also demonstrated once again why American industry has been a vital force in leading the country through previous crises — recall Ford and Bethlehem Steel going to war during WWII? — as well as the current pandemic.
Indeed, 500 million doses of vaccine were recently shipped globally, courtesy of U.S. Inc.
Now, as the nation reopens, American industry is once again leading the way — with companies creating cutting-edge technologies and instituting practices helping to redefine norms in public (and even private spaces) to keep people connected, productive, and healthy.
As the reopening plays out over the coming weeks and months, however, there will be a temptation among lawmakers and regulators in Washington and in statehouses nationally to try to micromanage with new restrictions and mandates.
That temptation that must be resisted at all costs.
If we’ve learned nothing else over the last year, it’s that American businesses and individuals are most creative when government gets out of their way.
As the country ventures ahead into a new normal, many of the changes that await Americans will simply amount to an acceleration of the technological innovations that were broadly adopted in response to the shutdowns prompted by the pandemic.
That includes platforms like Zoom to keep us in touch and GrubHub to keep us fed. COVID-19 has finally killed the movie theater-going experience and turned us all into streaming junkies.
Telehealth is here to stay, which we hope will mean better, safer access for more people. New dating patterns have emerged amid the pandemic.
Business trips, courtrooms, state legislatures, and in-person shareholder meetings will be forever changed.
But while many employees will telework more and more, many will have to come back to office life.
Keeping them safe and healthy is something that dozens of companies are working on, experimenting with, and trying best to predict.
One organization making inroads in this area is the International WELL Building Institute, an organization that explores how buildings impact human health.
In particular, its mission has been to try to find ways to end so-called "sick buildings" — those marred by poor ventilation, inadequate lighting, and tight working quarters. Its research covers everything from air quality and work productivity to the effects of daylight on cognitive capabilities and, of course, pathogens including the coronavirus.
Now, however, that work has taken on greater urgency as American workplaces and public spaces reopen — and, in some cases, require a complete overhaul or redesign in the pandemic’s wake.
Innovation from the International WELL Building Institute, as well as others, is helping usher in broad changes as the pandemic prompts organizations and individuals to question how indoor environments impact health.
Take air travel, for example.
Thanks to the frequent exchange of air and HEPA filters that are now being used on airplanes, more than 99% of the particles potentially containing a virus are removed from the cabin.
Airplanes deliver about a dozen so-called air changes per hour, double the amount in existing hospital room facilities.
Airplanes are safer now than hospitals.
One place where these changes to public and private spaces could present great opportunity is in rural America, where there has already long been a dire need for investment in commercial and residential development and modernization.
As it turns out, this need is suddenly more urgent due to the fact that there is a massive exodus underway from congested urban centers to exurban and rural communities.
This influx of new blood, boundless capital, and innovative technology could presage a rural renaissance, one in which neglected rural infrastructure is in desperate need of re-invigoration.
There’s a significant lack of residential and commercial space in rural America, and new construction is usually good for every sector of the economy.
With the economy reopening, community planners and business leaders have the chance to reimagine living- and work-spaces to a post-pandemic world — this can include everything from apartment buildings and schools to hospitals and bus terminals.
This red shift will probably be good for America long term too, as the migration of corporate power to redder parts of the country will validate private industry over the threats of government overreach.
Because we enjoy the muscle of the free-market economy, we're witnessing technological advances and other innovations doing the heavy lifting to build more resilient infrastructure for the future.
American industry can and will handle whatever the world throws at us next.
Jared Whitley is a long-time politico who has worked in the U.S. Congress, White House and defense industry. He is an award-winning writer, having won best blogger in the state from the Utah Society of Professional Journalists (2018) and best columnist from Best of the West (2016). He earned his MBA from Hult International Business School in Dubai. Read Jared Whitley's reports — More Here.
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